Desperately need work to live & leave abuser. How to get regular notice?
April 17, 2016 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good guides to approaching NYC employment agencies and consistently securing work? I need a job so I can leave my abusive partner, keep my tiny apartment, and see a therapist. I need stability. I’m a dedicated, bright, friendly, curious, and solid worker. I just don’t know how to make myself stand out or get a consistent response from either cold applications or agencies. Turning to MeFi again for guidance.

Since my previous question (here), I have come to that point where I've been nearly homeless, down to my last $200, rejected for SNAP and Medicaid due to mistakes or the government not liking the documents of poor contract workers (though I am fully unemployed now).

I had a temp assignment for a few weeks, but I've been looking and applying ever since April began. I can't seem to get any attention at all. I am the type of employee that does a little bit of everything and I feel like my resume needs explanation, because I’ve been a vital team member, and have the ability to learn new things quickly, and put a lot of different skills to use, but I think my lack of super specialization may be hurting me in my field and in others.

When my last assignment ended, I emailed some agency recruiters I had worked with and called and let people know I was in need of work again, but got little response. I am sort of new at working with agencies and my job history is a bit odd because I graduated mid-breakdown and had to spend years getting to a point where my depression and anxiety allowed me to work and build my life. I've done decently these past eight years, built a track record for myself. But my most recent companies are closely tied to my partner.

I am trying to leave this abusive partner. We do not live together. However, I want to leave him and be free and safe and get myself into therapy. He's self-centered, narcissistic, lacking empathy, and regularly gaslights and berates me, triggers PTSD responses and phobias in me because they are "hilarious". I have nowhere else to go and while I do have supportive friends and family, they don't have material resources to help. I have not left him yet because he was one of my supervisors at my longest position and I need references (he can sabotage all of them if he wants to). I'd be in an even worse position than before. He also abuses his senior citizen mother (who he lives with) and I feel awful but can't do anything to stop it.

I've asked my friends and family, but many of my contacts are in completely different fields, different areas, or can't help. Are there any domestic abuse organizations that also have job assistance? I know so many people don't leave their abusers for similar reasons, but I've searched and there seem to be little to no economic resources for people like me. The one grant I did find requires someone be out of the relationship for 6 months. But nothing to help us move on and get out. Is it just a matter of being a squeaky wheel with agencies? How do you sell yourself as flexible and capable in several industries when you're not particularly specialized? (I like doing a little of everything. Keeps things interesting and keeps me learning, but I'm genuinely good at things and have received praise/seen results accordingly).
posted by Fire to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
OK you don't need this person for references. Cut him off now and be done with him.

I don't live in New York, but I have gotten jobs through temp agencies. Google temp agencies in New York. Fill out their online applications and then call them in the morning. Tell them you're looking for any work. You can probably do two or three agencies a day and I imagine you'll have a temp job by next week.

Honestly, references are often not a big deal for this type of work. Really think you need them? Pick three of your aunts or cousins with different last names and use them.

Never talk to this person you think is abusive again. You don't need him. He is not your ticket to a job. You'll likely feel so much better cutting him off, it'll be easier for you to land a job.

Dress well when you go to the interviews. Just sound enthusiastic when speaking about the potential position. Try to be polite and professional.

You could also try the unemployment office for help finding a job.

The DV shelters I know of help with job placement. You could try those. You could also try their support groups to see if they're supportive or give you perspective.

But I would really just keep contacting temp agencies and go on every interview you can. I would put this guy out of your head as much as you can. You should never contact or accept contact from him again.
posted by Kalmya at 6:28 PM on April 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

OK I came back to add, abusers may play mind games with victims. A common theme is why you need them. As a reference is kind of a weak one. Don't fall for it.
posted by Kalmya at 6:38 PM on April 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

I help people apply to Medicaid and SNAP for work, and the offices often make mistakes. You ARE eligible (as long as you are a US citizen or have been here more than 5years with eligible immigration status)- if you go to the office and wait,you should be able to talk to a caseworker and get benefits that day if you have paystubs for the last month, proving income.
posted by bearette at 6:50 PM on April 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

You can also call the office, or apply again online.
posted by bearette at 6:50 PM on April 17, 2016

When I was job searching, I had very good luck with Atrium Staffing. They spent a long time with me and my resume, and were great about getting me work. Please try them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:58 PM on April 17, 2016

Yea, what Kalmya said: you don't need this guy as a reference, and from what you told us, why on earth would you even trust him as one?
posted by dilettante at 7:07 PM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's generally a no-no to use intimate partners or spouses as a reference anyway. References don't have to be supervisors and often aren't. Find someone else you worked with to use as a reference.
posted by xyzzy at 7:32 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sorry if you've done this already, but have you actually tried speaking with any domestic violence victim advocates, or is it more a question of looking at websites and feeling that they probably won't be able to help you? Because I'd start with a group like Safe Horizon. They may or may not be able to help you directly but they are probably your best chance of getting an informed referral.

I would also strongly recommend that you visit a Single Stop center to get some help connecting with whatever benefits you may be eligible for. That's their entire purpose, and it's free. Nothing I see in your post indicates that you should be ineligible for either SNAP or UI, so I really think it's worth taking another run at these. That would give you some breathing room.
posted by praemunire at 7:49 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I burned a bridge with someone traditional wisdom would swear up and down is vital as a reference, and I have been just fine. I use other references from the period of my life that person would've covered and nobody's ever looked askance at it, and I have received plenty of offers. Odds are you can go no-contact with this douchebag without affecting your references too much!
posted by Alterscape at 7:52 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

If he thinks it's hilarious to torture you, what makes you think he'll give you a good reference? On some level, he knows that your financial situation makes it easier for him to control you, so he may very well be sabotaging your job search to keep you close to him.

Leave him now. Cut contact. If you need a reference, use a coworker or your ex's boss or someone else. If a potential future employer asks, I think it's perfectly fine to say that you don't use this person as a reference because you ended up dating, and so he's no longer a professional contact. People understand that. But do not let your belief that you still need him for this one thing keep you from getting yourself to a place where you feel safe.
posted by decathecting at 8:40 PM on April 17, 2016 [15 favorites]

At this point references are pretty irrelevant, especially for entry-level office work. Most HR organizations just verify that you actually worked at some place for whatever period. So feel free to tell this guy to bounce.

If you were working, and now aren't, you may be eligible for unemployment, also re-apply for SNAP, and any other benefits. You have to be persistent.

I might also try to scare up a job as a barista or server or cashier somewhere. Preferably an evening shift to keep your days free for office work. Money coming in is never a bad thing. If you work in the food industry, you may get a meal.

Apply for jobs other than contracts. Long-term employment with benefits is always cheerful.

If you want resume help, shoot me a memail and I'll give it a look-see.

You seem pretty resilient, that's great. But for sure, ditch your abuser, you absolutely don't need him.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:28 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You say that you've gotten temp work before - who was the agency? And are they your only temp agency? If so, you need more than one.

Seconding Atrium, which is how I got into the position that lead to my permanent job now. Leafstone is another good one (FYI, "Leafstone" is the name of the local branch of a national chain called "Corestaff", so you may be directed to that web site if you look). And absolutely, just upload a resume then call each place a couple hours later to ask about an interview.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on April 18, 2016

Also - when your previous assignment ended, did you try filing for unemployment?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:46 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did you already try Workforce 1? They exist to match people up with jobs. It is a free service of NYC. They may or may not be able to help you; I have heard both great and terrible stories from people who have used their services.

It sounds like your have your resume and interviewing skills well in hand, but all three of the NYC libraries offer a job seeker service that focus on job readiness. They don't actually connect people to anyone hiring, though.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:26 AM on April 18, 2016

I am returning to share that I sort of have an improvement in my situation. Partner had asked an old classmate about any openings weeks ago, and I've just been hired. They're not close close, but I'm going to be careful. My focus in the immediate is to start this job and focus on settling in, then once I have that and know what I'll be paid after taxes, start planning to leave this man. I have not worked in an office like this before, and I have high sensory processing, so I can be overloaded by being observed or having no privacy. So I need time to adjust without burning out by having to be always 'on'. The position is also call heavy. I would've never applied to this myself.

I was pushed into applying, interviewing, and of course, accepting this position by him (there was no way I could've turned any of it down - so I played along to avoid worse treatment while I pursued my own things, but was truthful and spoke to my real abilities in the interviews themselves), but it is a job, and it's a possible foundation that will allow me to live and plan the next step.

It's nowhere near ideal and it pays less than the minimum I was looking for, and it has a tie to him, but these things don't have to be forever.

Thank you for all of your suggestions. I'm bookmarking this for the future, in case. Going to mark resolved, even though I am definitely a work in progress, hoping to be free soon. I will also continue to apply to other jobs, though I suspect interviewing when you have a full time job already will be difficult.

(I have tried WorkForce1 but their system now only lets you have one active application at a time until they reject you or interview you but I've had max in the system for two months). I was unsure, as suggested, that something like Safe Horizon could help me, but I see they have a mental health center that I plan to call one day.
posted by Fire at 11:21 PM on April 20, 2016

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